Hope On The Hill Targets Cancer Cure

June 19, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — When folks heard a McCarty was coming to town, hockey fans thought it was a time for autographs and Red Wings talk.

But it was a more serious topic that brought the name to Grand Rapids.

Roberta McCarty, mother of Red Wings player Darren McCarty, introduced as the “mother of a son who weekly gives and takes blood,” attended a press conference Monday to announce the partnership of the McCarty Cancer Foundation and the Van Andel Institute in a joint project called “Hope on the Hill.”

The event marked the creation of the institute’s Hope on the Hill Foundation, its new alliance with the Detroit-based McCarty Cancer Foundation and its partnership with former White House Chief of Staff and three-time cancer survivor Hamilton Jordan.

The name “Hope on the Hill” was derived from a letter sent from Pinewood Middle School, which included a modest contribution and was addressed to “Hope on the Hill,” a nickname local media gave to the VAI after its grand opening. Students from the middle school were on hand to unveil the new logo for the organization.

McCarty said the name fit the organization and its mission well. “If you ask cancer patients, they will tell you they can live without food and they can live without water, but the one thing they cannot live without is hope.”

Along with the announcement of the new alliance and the two organizations involved, Bill Nicholson, co-chair of the foundation, announced a $1 million contribution — predicated on raising $2 million in matching funds from private donors — made by Peter Cook, a founding trustee of the VAI, and his wife Pat.

It also was announced that Richard and Helen DeVos have donated $1 million toward the challenge gift. In honor of their contribution, the VAI has named the institute’s south lobby after them.

The foundation hopes to raise $2 million to $3 million annually for the next few years and to increase its goal to $4 million to $5 million for the three to five years thereafter. Although the foundation will operate on a broad national level, initially it will focus on West Michigan and the rest of the state through its connection with the McCarty Cancer Foundation.

The McCarty Cancer Foundation was created in 1997 as a Father’s Day gift from Red Wings star Darren McCarty to his father, Craig, as a way to raise money to find a cure for multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow, which Craig had been diagnosed with in 1995. He died in 1999.

Jordan told the audience that the largest obstacle in fighting cancer is raising money to perform the research. Since 1971, he said, more than $35.4 trillion, or the equivalent of one penny from every tax dollar, has been spent on cancer research.

With the money that will be and has been donated, both the Hope on the Hill Foundation and the McCarty Cancer Foundation look to establish a lab in Craig McCarty’s name that would be dedicated to doing research for multiple myeloma.

“I always say that instead of cloning Dolly (the sheep), we should clone the people in Grand Rapids and then spread them all over the world,” said Nicholson. “They seem to just know how to build and create facilities that can help people. They could really stir things up in other places where we need projects like this one.”

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